I Can Speak

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I Can Speak
I Can Speak (아이 캔 스피크).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Hangul아이 캔 스피크
Revised RomanizationAi Kaen Seupikeu
Directed byKim Hyun-seok
Produced byLee Ha-young
Written byYoo Seung-hee
StarringNa Moon-hee
Lee Je-hoon
Music byLee Dong-joon
CinematographyYou Yok
Edited byKim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum
Myung Films
See Sun
Distributed byLotte Entertainment
Little Big Pictures
Release date
  • September 21, 2017 (2017-09-21)
Running time
119 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
Box officeUS$23.3 million[1]

I Can Speak is a 2017 South Korean film based on true story of comfort woman directed by Kim Hyun-seok and distributed by Lotte Entertainment [2]. The genre of the film is both comedy and drama. The film depicts the story of the resolution of conviction for “comfort women” (HR121) of the Japanese military in 2007. Though the film is a comedy [3], the genre serves as a vehicle to discuss the deeper topic of Korean comfort women. The way that film illustrated Na Moon-hee’s enterprising attitude of her life and her courageously testifying in front of the whole world were applauded. The film stars Na Moon-hee as Na Ok-Bun, with Lee Je-hoon as Park Min-Jae. The scene of Na Moon-hee’s testimony of the United States Congress was filmed at the actual congress of Richmond, Virginia, USA.  


Nah Ok-Bun, an elderly woman who is more famous for her name, “Dokkaebi (Goblin) Granny”, filling out another citizen’s complaint at her district office. People in the district office try to avoid Ok-bun as much as possible because she always files dozens of complaints at once. When Ok-bun meets with Kim Min Jae, a young man who recently was appointed as the junior civil service officer, she causes a trouble between them. She is dissatisfied with Min Jae’s attitude of not caring about her complaints and only trying to do the jobs that are assigned to him.

But there is an opportunity between these two become closer to each other. Ok-bun was not only passionate about submitting the citizen’s complaints but also in learning English. The silver class run by the local resident center did not fit her level, and the English academy that Ok-bun enrolled was too hard for Ok-bun to follow the pace of the class and she was eventually kicked out of the class. Ok-Bun sees Min Jae speaking English very fluently with a native speaker in the academy. Forgetting all the troubles she had with Min Jae, Ok-Bun asks Min Jae to teach her English. Min Jae refuses Ok-bun’s request because he does not want to take on the troublesome role. When Min Jae sees Ok-Bun taking care of his younger brother, Young Jae, he is moved by her warmth and agrees to become her English teacher Min Jae uses a variety of methods to improve Ok-bun’s English proficiency. Min Jae teaches Ok-bun from the very basic and as Ok-bun’s English improved Min Jae even takes Ok-bun to pubs in Itaewon to let her talk to native speakers.

Min Jae realizes that Ok-Bun wished to learn English to continue her friend Jeong-shim's dream of testifying in front of comfort women public hearing. Ok-bun and Jeong-shim were both the victims of the Japanese Military during World War II. Although Ok-Bun has prepared what to say for many times in the public hearing, she hardly could speak a word because she was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar and the heavy pressure that was on her. When people start to question Ok-bun’s behavior, Ok-bun hears a familiar voice and a phrase ‘How are you?’. She then earns courage and starts to testify the atrocities of the Japanese Military.



A frequent trouble making visitor at the local public government office who has filed over 8,000 civil complaints.[4]

A ninth grade civil servant who comes across Na Ok-boon and teaches her English as per her request.



I Can Speak was released in theaters in Korea on September 21, 2017. On its opening weekend it topped the local box office, grossing US$5.2 million from 727,000 admissions over four days.[5][6] By September 29, 2017, the film had surpassed the 1 million viewer mark and collected a total of US$8.1 million in ticket sales.[7] During the Korean Chuseok holiday weekend, the movie attracted 462,939 viewers,[8] increasing the total number of ticket sale to 2.86 million.[9] According to the Korean Film Council, just twenty days after its release, I Can Speak had attracted 3 million viewers.[10]

The film has won the prize for the “Comfort Women” victim scenario project which was sponsored by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. It was selected through a competition rate of 75: 1. The film was praised for its lively approach to the issue of comfort women which is based on anger and sadness. It was also selected for family film production support of Korean Film Council.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
1st The Seoul Awards Best Actress Na Moon-hee Won [11][12]
Best New Actress Lee Sang-hee Nominated
11th Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Actress Na Moon-hee Nominated [13]
37th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Won [14][15]
Top 10 Films of the Year I Can Speak Won
38th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Director Kim Hyun-seok Won [16]
Best Actress Na Moon-hee Won
Popular Star Award Won
Best Supporting Actress Yeom Hye-ran Nominated
17th Director's Cut Awards Films of the Year I Can Speak Won [17]
Best Actress Na Moon-hee Won
4th Korean Film Producers Association Awards Won
18th Women in Film Korea Awards Woman in Film of the Year Won
Cine 21 Awards Best Director Kim Hyun-seok Won
Best Actress Na Moon-hee Won
9th KOFRA Film Awards Won [18]
54th Baeksang Arts Awards Won [19][20]
Best Supporting Actress Yeom Hye-ran Nominated
23rd Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Screenplay Yoo Seung-hee Nominated [21]
Best Actress Na Moon-hee Nominated
27th Buil Film Awards Nominated [22]
Best Screenplay Yoo Seung-hee Nominated
55th Grand Bell Awards Nominated [23]
Best Actress Na Moon-hee Won
1st Resistance Film Festival in Korea Best Actor Lee Je-hoon Won [24]


  1. ^ "I Can Speak (2017)". koreanfilm.or.kr. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  2. ^ "'아이 캔 스피크' 할머니 트럼프가 다가가서 포옹". www.hani.co.kr (in Korean). 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  3. ^ "아이 캔 스피크/줄거리 - 나무위키". namu.wiki. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  4. ^ Ji Min-kyung (August 9, 2017). "[Oh!쎈 컷] '아이캔스피크' 이제훈, 9급공무원 변신 "따뜻한 행복 드리고파"". OSEN (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-08-14.
  5. ^ "Korea Box Office: 'I Can Speak' Leads Weekend". Variety. September 25, 2017.
  6. ^ "Korean comedy-drama 'I Can Speak' rules weekend box office". Yonhap News Agency. September 25, 2017.
  7. ^ Jung Sun Park (September 29, 2017). "[박스오피스IS] '킹스맨2' 압도적 1위..'아이캔스피크' 110만 돌파 '선전'". JTBC (in Korean).
  8. ^ Shim Sun-ah (October 9, 2017). "'The Fortress' narrowly wins Chuseok weekend box office over 'The Outlaws'". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  9. ^ Kim Jae-heun (October 9, 2017). "'Outlaws' breaks through to top Korean box office". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  10. ^ "Comedy-drama 'I Can Speak' hurtles past 3 mln attendance mark". Yonhap News Agency. October 11, 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  11. ^ Jung Da-hoon (28 September 2017). "'제1회 더 서울어워즈' 노미네이트 공개, 이보영 지성 김희선 조승우 등 화려한 라인업 공개". SE Daily (in Korean).
  12. ^ "'서울어워즈' 송강호·나문희·지성·박보영 주연상…·'박열'·'비숲' 대상[종합]". TV Report (in Korean). October 27, 2017.
  13. ^ M. H. Lee (16 October 2017). "Comfort Woman Movie 'I Can Speak' Receives Award Nomination". Korea Bizwire. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  14. ^ "설경구X나문희 영평상 남녀주연상…작품상 '남한산성' 4관왕[공식]" (in Korean). 26 October 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  15. ^ "THE FORTRESS Dominates 37th Korean Film Critics Association Awards". Korean Film Biz Zone. 30 October 2017.
  16. ^ "[공식입장] '제38회 청룡영화상' 후보 공개, '불한당'vs'택시' 대격돌" (in Korean). Sports Chosun. 2017-11-06.
  17. ^ "[공식]봉준호·설경구·나문희, 디렉터스컷 어워즈 선정 '올해의 감독·배우상'". Chosun (in Korean).
  18. ^ "'1987' chosen by film reporters as the best film of 2017". Yonhap News Agency. January 30, 2018.
  19. ^ "제54회 백상예술대상, TV·영화 각 부문별 수상 후보자 공개". JTBC (in Korean). April 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "[2018 백상예술대상 종합] tvN '비밀의 숲'·영화 '1987' 대상 영예+3·4관왕". Osen (in Korean). May 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "제23회 춘사영화제 5월18일 개최..홍상수·김민희 참석하나". Newsen (in Korean). May 3, 2018.
  22. ^ "[23회 부산국제영화제] 부일영화상". Busan.com (in Korean). 20 September 2018.
  23. ^ "제55회 대종상, 각 부문 후보 공개…'공작' 12개 최다부문 노미네이트". Seoul Sports (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  24. ^ "이제훈·최희서 등 2018레지스탕스영화제 수상". Naver (in Korean). 4 September 2018.

External links[edit]